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Warehouse 1 - the People
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Los Angeles Harbor float in local parade highlights Warehouse No. 1 (temporarily redesignated Warehouse No. 3) and original Harbor Pilot House.
Los Angeles Harbor float in local parade highlights
Warehouse No. 1 (temporarily redesignated Warehouse No. 3)
and original Harbor Pilot House.


Over time, at least three groups of people worked in and around Warehouse No. 1 at the Port. The people with the most direct association were the longshoremen (those workers who load and unload ships at a seaport), warehousemen (those workers who store materials and goods within the warehouse), and pilots (seamen who guided larger ships into and out of the Port and to the wharves). Within the Port, longshoremen and warehousemen historically worked closely together and in some instances performed similar tasks. This camaraderie is reflected in the fact that these two groups of workers share a single union; the International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union (ILWU).

Construction of Warehouse No. 1 required an extensive labor force.
Construction of Warehouse No. 1
required an extensive labor force.


Longshoremen and Warehousemen

Typically when visitors pass close to the Port today, they see the container cranes lining the wharfs. These cranes load and unload shipping containers for transport throughout the United States and the world. Containerization is a mode of cargo transport in which cargo is shipped in standard-size sealable metal boxes (called "cans" by longshore workers). These "cans" are designed to be placed on special trailers and are transported to and from the port by trucks or rail. A container is loaded with cargo at the factory or warehouse and sealed. The "can' is then transported by truck or train to the port, where a crane lifts the container from the trailer and places it on the ship's deck or in its cargo hold. Once the containers are delivered to the destination port, the process is repeated in reverse.

Unloading Tomatoes.
Unloading Tomatoes

However, in years past, cargo loading was more labor-intensive and time consuming, because longshoremen had to load and unload much of the cargo, such as drums, boxes, bags or crates, as individual pieces. This cargo, also known as break-bulk, was brought to the Port by truck or train and was unloaded into warehouses or buildings that lined the wharf, called transit sheds. Cargo was stored in warehouses until a ship was ready to receive it. When a ship was ready, cargo was transported to the transit sheds, where it was sorted and organized for loading. It then moved to the wharf and was hoisted into the ship's cargo hold by small cranes. Once there, the cargo was stowed by longshoremen. Longshoremen and warehousemen worked together to pack and unpack both uniform and irregularly-sized cargoes into the holds of waiting ships and warehouses. Working as a coordinated and collective effort, "gangs" of longshoremen and warehousemen (made up of various ethnic and cultural backgrounds) held responsibility for the safe passage of various types of cargo into and out of warehouses such as Warehouse No. 1.

Loading Sacks on Ships.
Loading Break Bulk (Sacks) on Ships

The longshoreman's task was time consuming, laborious, and required extensive job knowledge and experience. Seven or eight gangs, along with associated dockmen, typically worked a ship. Break-bulk cargo workers of the gang operated in three distinct stations on a ship. First, the deckmen (which includes winch drivers and hatch tenders) drove the winches. Holdmen stowed and unstowed the cargo hold of the ship, and the frontmen affixed and released the "sling loads" on the deck. Sling loads were cargo moved between the dock and the ship on either a "rope sling" (lasso-style ropes used to haul bags or bales), or a "sling board" which is a large pallet attached to ropes for carrying large relatively stable cargo such as those transported in drums, boxes, or barrels. In addition to the ship gangs, dockmen physically transferred the cargo to and from the ships. Warehousemen moved the cargo into and out of the warehouse building on carts known as "4-wheelers."

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